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Wishes and hypotheses

Level: intermediate


We use the verb wish or the phrase if only to talk about things which we want but which are not possible:

I wish I could see you next week.
If only we could stop for a drink.
I wish we had a bigger house.
They are always busy. If only they had more time.
John was very lazy at school. Now he wishes he had worked harder.

We use wish and if only with past tense forms:

  • We use past tense modals would and could to talk about wishes for the future:

I don't like my work. I wish I could get a better job.
That's a dreadful noise. I wish it would stop.
I always have to get home early. If only my parents would let me stay out later.

I don't like this place. I wish I lived somewhere more interesting.
These seats are very uncomfortable. I wish we were travelling first class.
I wish I was taller.
John wishes he wasn't so busy.
I'm freezing. If only it wasn't so cold.

  • After I/he/she/it, we can use were instead of was:

I wish I was/were taller.
John wishes he wasn't/weren't so busy.
I'm freezing. If only it wasn't/weren't so cold.

  • We use the past perfect to talk about wishes for the past:

I wish I had worked harder when I was at school.
Mary wishes she had listened to what her mother told her.
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

Wishes 1


Wishes 2


Hypotheses (things we imagine)


When we are talking about hypotheses, we use expressions like:

what if ... ? in case suppose (that) supposing (that) imagine (if/that)

We use these expressions:

We should phone them in case they are lost.
Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone has an accident.

Imagine you won the lottery. What would you do with the money?
What if he lost his job? What would happen then?

Suppose you hadn't passed your exams. What would you have done?
What if he had lost his job? What would his wife have said?

Modal verbs

We use modals would and could for a hypothesis about the present or future:

We can't all stay in a hotel. It would be very expensive.
Drive carefully or you could have an accident.

We use would in the main clause and the past tense in a subordinate clause for a hypothesis about the present or future:

I would always help someone who really needed help.
I would always help someone if they really needed it.

We use modals with have to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

I didn't see Mary, or I might have spoken to her.
It's a pity Jack wasn't at the party. He would have enjoyed it.
Why didn't you ask me? I could have told you the answer.

We use would have in the main clause and the past perfect in a subordinate clause to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

I would have helped anyone who had asked me.
I would have helped you if you had asked me.

Hypotheses 1


Hypotheses 2




Hello tagrapankaj,

The first sentence is correct, apart from the use of 'there', which should be 'their':

The result would have been different if they had used their chances properly.

This is an example of a conditional form describing an unreal or alternative past event and result, sometimes called a 'third conditional' form. To make this form we use:

if + had + past participle [= past perfect]... (then) would have + past participle

'Been' is necessary as it is the past participle of 'be'; without it the form of the past perfect is incorrect. Of course, other verbs can be used in third conditional sentences, but the [had + past participle] form is necessary, whether that past participle is 'been' or something else.

You can find more information on third conditional forms here.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,
If we have to add something in wishes first and second (future and present) sentences how will we do that?
For example, I wish I would be so rich, then my father would ask me where had/did you got this money.
I wish I were the father of my father, I didn't allow him to meet his friends and to make fun then he realized
How it hurts me.
These are the two right or have some mistakes. Please guide me.

Thanks a lot

Hi Syed sami ul haq,

You can find information on these structures on this page, and I think that will help you to see how they are formed and used. However, we do not use 'wish' in this way. I am not entirely sure about what you are trying to say, so it is hard for me to correct the sentences. However, I would guess that what you are trying to say is as follows:

I wish I was so rich that my father would ask me where I got this money.

I wish I were the father of my father, because then I wouldn't allow him to meet his friends and to have fun so that he would realise how it hurts me.

I hope that helps to answer your questions.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team


In your explanations you have used ' was ' in the first sentence and ' were ' in the second sentence .

How would the meanings change if we interchange ' was ' and ' were ' ?

Thank you

Sir in my first sentence I meant that it is my wish that in future I become so rich and after happening that my father asks me a question where you got this money from.
In second sentence I meant it is my wish that I am father of my father in present then I give him a lesson that what he does with me is not fair by imposing restrictions on him.


Hello Syed sami ul haq,

The sentences that Peter wrote above communicate what you explain in your comment, but are wishes that you don't expect to come true. For wishes that we think have some chance of coming true, we use the verb hope. You might want to consider using hope for the first sentence:

I hope that I become so rich that my father will ask me where I got the money.

For the second sentence, only wish is appropriate, as it is not reasonable to expect that you will become your father's father, at least in this life!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,
I have a few queries regarding wishes.
A. Could we use "would that" instead of using wish? Will it give the same meaning?
B.could I make a sentence in this way? "I wish your drafted report would be accepted"
C.we typically use the word wish for intentions , willingness, praying to God and
Something which is unlikely to happen. My question is what meaning wish is being used here for?

Thanks and sorry for asking 3 questions in same time.

Hi Syed sami ul haq,

There is a very old/archaic form which used 'would that' in place of 'wish', as in sentences like this:

I would that he were with me now! (in modern English: 'I wish he were with me now!')

However, this is not used in modern English and is found only in old literary texts.

We would use 'hope' rather than 'wish' in your second example:

I hope (that) your draft report will be accepted / is accepted.

I don't understand your third question. To which sentence are you referring when you say 'here'? If you are referring to the example with the report then, as I said, we would not use 'wish' in that example.

I hope that answers your questions.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,
Could you plz explain how we will write about present hypothesis.....I have read about past hypothesis and future hypothesis,but not about present hypothesis....

Hi Learner S,

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by 'present hypothesis'.  There are many ways of talking about unreal present, of speculating about the present and so on.  Could you provide an example of the kind of meaning you have in mind, and then we'll try to help you to express it?

Thank you,



The LearnEnglish Team